Lesslie Newbigin: creation as an act of divine peace

“The first chapter of Genesis was almost certainly written during the time when Israel was in exile in Babylon. And we must picture these writers as slaves under the shadow of this mighty empire with its palaces, fortresses and temples. Babylon had its own account of creation, as we know from the work of modern scholarship. It was a story of conflict, battle and bloodshed. Violence was the theme underlying the whole creation story as the Babylonians understood it.

The writers of Genesis had a quite different picture of God. They were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. They knew God as the redeemer God, the God who had saved his people from bondage. And they had a totally different picture of God’s creation—not as the result of violence but as the action of a God of love and wisdom who, out of sheer love, desired to create a world to reflect his glory and a human family to enjoy his world and give back his love.

And so we have in Genesis a picture of the creation of light to be distinguished from darkness, of the dry land to be distinguished from the chaos of the sea, of a home in which living creatures could grow and thrive, of the creation of the animals and of human beings among them, and of the special responsibility given to human beings of being in the image of God. And to this human family he has given the specific responsibility of cherishing his creation, of bringing it to that perfection for which God intended it, so that it, with the whole human race, should truly reflect his glory.”

—Lesslie Newbigin, A Walk Through the Bible (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1999), 6-8.

Comments

Kevin said…
So I take you enjoy this book, Dave. Todd offered me a copy to read but I didn't take it because I am short on time. Maybe I'll have to pick it up. I am surprised to find out that the Jewish creation story, according to Newbigin, was authored during the exile.
D.W. Congdon said…
I found the book to be very helpful and well written. One of its great merits is that it continually looks forward to Christ at each part of the story. Newbigin retells the Bible in a thoroughly christocentric manner, and this is very commendable.

Newbigin is a little misleading when he says that Genesis was "almost certainly written" during the exile. This is likely true, but it's only part of the picture. There are a number of different dates for Genesis, because there are different sources coming together in the text. Traditionally, scholars have identified four major sources, but today scholars are a little more agnostic about how many -- but probably more than four. In any case, some of them are earlier than the exile, while others might be later.
Steve Martin said…
Good stuff! This is going in a future post of mine.

BTW, do you any (other) recommendations on good reads on a theology of creation. I had in mind to read one or both of Polkinghorne's Science and Creation and McGrath's (i think its Science and Theology). But maybe i should try to reach outside of the science / faith integration & look for more purely theological treatment. So, knowing that I have at least one foot solidly in the Evangelical camp, what would you recommend?
thanks,
D.W. Congdon said…
Hi Steve,

Here's what I would recommend:

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/1

Colin E. Gunton, The Doctrine of Creation: Essays in Dogmatics, History and Philosophy

T.F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order

Kathryn Tanner, God and Creation in Christian Theology

Wolfhart Pannenberg, Toward a Theology of Nature: Essays on Science and Faith

Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation

I only recommend the first three (Barth, Gunton, Torrance) without hesitation. The other three are worth checking out and at least familiarizing yourself with, but they probably won't be quite as helpful. The Barth volume is tremendous, though, and it also provides excellent exegesis. Regarding biblical exegesis, you should definitely check out the following:

Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Ad Litteram: How Augustine, Calvin, and Barth Read the "Plain Sense" of Genesis 1-3.